Did an ancestor travel the Pequot Path of Rhode Island and Connecticut? Learn about this settler migration route, its transportation history, and find related genealogy sources.
The Pequot Path ran about 69 miles (111 kilometers) near the mainland ocean shore from Providence, Rhode Island to New London, Connecticut (formerly Pequitt). At least one authority asserts the route also included the island community of Newport on Rhode Island. All seem to agree the route was certainly extended into central Connecticut, but the earliest name of the trail in Connecticut beyond New London is unclear (before it was called the Boston Post Road). The Pequot Path route was part of the American Indian foot trails that were widened by European colonists into horse paths, and then wagon roads
Overlapping routes. The Pequot Path also became a leg on the lower Boston Post Road between Boston and New York City. In the 1760s and 1770s it was also part of the King's Highway from Boston to New York City and all the way south to Charleston, South Carolina.
Stagecoach service. In the 1760s stagecoaches began to traverse these roads carrying regular mail and passengers. Inns for stagecoach passengers and other travelers usually were established near the time of American Revolution. By 1800 an advertisement suggested stage service from Boston to Providence took only ten hours, but service from there to New York City took the rest of the week. Nevertheless, travel between colonial towns was more often by sea than it was over land until just before the American Revolution.
Toll roads. Rhode Island and Connecticut developed turnpike (toll) systems for wagon roads in the early 1800s including most of the route from Providence to New London. The Providence and Pawcatuck Turnpike (opened 1820), and the Hopkinton and Richmond Turnpike (opened 1820) in Rhode Island, and the Groton and Stonington Turnpike (opened 1818) in Connnecticut replaced the Pequot Path which was closer to the shore. Most of these early pathways continue as roads today. Modern freeways usually parallel the older road systems.
Decline. However, the use of early roads and turnpikes for moving settlers waned with the introduction of railroads. Settlers could travel faster, less expensively, and safer on railroads than on wagon roads. So, as railroads entered an area, the wagon-road traffic in that area declined. The first railroad from New London to Providence opened in 1839, but did not cause much decline in turnpike traffic. However, the railroad built in 1852 from New London to New Haven, which had previous connections with New York City, signaled the end of the toll roads. The next year, in 1853, the turnpikes from Providence to New London became public (free) roads.
The Pequot Path connected Providence to New London through the following places:
Connecting Routes. The Pequot Path connected with other migration routes:
- King's Highway, also known as the Boston Post Road, goes from Boston, Massachusetts to New York City, and south to Charleston, South Carolina. The lower Boston Post Road (King's Highway) went from Boston to Providence (aka Old Roebuck Road), from Providence to New London (aka Pequot Path), and extended west from the southwest end of the Pequot Path at New London to New Haven and then to New York.
Modern parallels. The modern road that approximately matches the Pequot Path from Providence, Rhode Island to New London, Connecticut is:
Providence was founded in 1636 by Roger Williams and other English Puritan dissenters. New London was settled by English Puritans in 1646. The Indian footpath between these places and Boston attracted settlers who would be able to more easily get access to markets. Many of the earliest settlers along the Pequot Path would have been from Boston, Massachusetts area, and prior to that from England. Look at the earliest deeds, tax records, and histories of towns along the Pequot Path to learn the names of the first settlers. If you already know the name of a settler near the Pequot Path, you have a good chance of finding his or her genealogy in sources like:
- Robert Charles Anderson, The Great Migration Begins: Immigrants to New England, 1620-1633, 3 vols. (Boston, Massachusetts: New England Historic Genealogical Society, c1995). At various libraries (WorldCat); FHL Book 974 W2a.
- On the Trail of Benjamin Franklin: The Lower Boston Post Road (accessed 17 October 2014).
- Boston Post Road in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia (accessed 17 October 2014).
- William Davis Miller, Ancient Paths to Pequot (Providence: E.L. Freeman, 1936). Hathi Trust Digital Library edition.
- William Davis Miller, Ancient Paths to Pequot (Providence: E.L. Freeman, 1936), 8. Hathi Trust Digital Library edition.
- On the Trail of Benjamin Franklin: The Lower Boston Post Road (accessed 20 October 2014).
- Frederic J. Wood, The Turnpikes of New England and the Evolution of the Same Through England, Virginia, and Maryland (Boston: Marshall Jones, 1919), 25. Internet Archive version online.
- Wood, 86-87.
- Wood, 25.
- Wood, map between 286 and 287; pages 315-16; map between 330 and 331; and pages 389-91.
- Wood, 391.